Wednesday 7 December 2016

David Bowie: The star who made a career out of confounding critics

Published 11/01/2016 | 08:02

David Bowie performs during a concert in Vienna, Austria in this February 4, 1996 file photo. Singer Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his official Twitter account announced on January 11, 2016
David Bowie performs during a concert in Vienna, Austria in this February 4, 1996 file photo. Singer Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his official Twitter account announced on January 11, 2016
Rock singer David Bowie (R) is shown with his wife Iman (L) with a crowd of Bowie's fans behind them prior to ceremonies honouring Bowie with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in this February 12, 1997 file photo. Singer Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his official Twitter account announced on January 11, 2016
Pop star David Bowie performs at the 1999 Much Music Video Awards in Toronto in this September 23, 1999 file photo. Singer Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his official Twitter account announced on January 11, 2016
David Bowie, the main act of the MGD Blind Date concert, performs at the Vic Theater in Chicago, in this September 19, 1997 file photo. Singer Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his official Twitter account announced on January 11, 2016

One of Britain's most successful and pioneering musicians, David Bowie enjoyed a glittering career spanning six decades that saw him become one of the biggest recording artists of all time.

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Bowie, whose death was announced this morning, made a habit of confounding the critics.

Rock singer David Bowie (R) is shown with his wife Iman (L) with a crowd of Bowie's fans behind them prior to ceremonies honouring Bowie with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in this February 12, 1997 file photo. Singer Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his official Twitter account announced on January 11, 2016
Rock singer David Bowie (R) is shown with his wife Iman (L) with a crowd of Bowie's fans behind them prior to ceremonies honouring Bowie with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in this February 12, 1997 file photo. Singer Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his official Twitter account announced on January 11, 2016

He killed off his most famous creation, Ziggy Stardust, at the height of his fame - and reinventing himself in roles including glam rocker, soul singer and hippie songwriter.

Born David Robert Jones on January 8, 1947, in Brixton, south London, to mother Margaret "Peggy", a waitress, and charity worker Haywood "John" Jones, Bowie's musical talent was clear from an early age and he had his first taste for rock music through the record collection of his older brother, Terry,

Pop star David Bowie performs at the 1999 Much Music Video Awards in Toronto in this September 23, 1999 file photo. Singer Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his official Twitter account announced on January 11, 2016
Pop star David Bowie performs at the 1999 Much Music Video Awards in Toronto in this September 23, 1999 file photo. Singer Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his official Twitter account announced on January 11, 2016

The family moved to south east London, where he graduated from Bromley Technical High School at 16. He formed a number of bands and led a group calling himself Davy Jones.

He changed his name to David Bowie to avoid confusion with the Monkees' Davy Jones. The name was said to be inspired by a knife developed by the 19th century American pioneer Jim Bowie.

He decided to set out on his own as a solo artist, releasing three singles for Pye Records and his debut album, The World Of David Bowie.

But the records did not achieve the huge success he would go on to experience and he retreated to a Buddhist monastery in Scotland in 1967

After returning to London he started arts troupe Feathers in 1968. As the group eventually separated he helped create the Beckenham Arts Lab in 1969 before releasing Space Oddity on July 11 that year, his first UK number one.

A string of albums followed, before 1972's The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars made him an international star.

David Bowie, the main act of the MGD Blind Date concert, performs at the Vic Theater in Chicago, in this September 19, 1997 file photo. Singer Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his official Twitter account announced on January 11, 2016
David Bowie, the main act of the MGD Blind Date concert, performs at the Vic Theater in Chicago, in this September 19, 1997 file photo. Singer Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his official Twitter account announced on January 11, 2016

The album, which tells the story of an alien rockstar, saw Bowie indulge his eye for the theatrical with a string of live shows and television appearances that saw him conquer America and create an otherworldly reputation that still clings to him.

At the same time, he was producing albums for Lou Reed and Iggy Pop and writing one of his greatest songs - All The Young Dudes - which he promptly gave away to Mott The Hoople who had a massive hit with it.

Bowie's announcement - during a London gig - that he was retiring Ziggy did not stop the commercial success and the hits kept coming as he toured and recorded albums including Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs and his tribute to the swinging London scene that inspired him - Pin Ups .

His soul-inspired Young Americans saw him change direction again and gave him his first US number one when his collaboration with John Lennon on Fame topped the charts in 1975.

Bowie played on his alien alter-ego with a successful move into acting - playing the lead character in the science fiction film The Man Who Fell To Earth, before moving to Berlin.

The influence of the then divided city inspired a trio of albums - Low, Heroes and Lodger - which produced hits including Sound And Vision and Boys Keep Swinging and are widely regarded as among his finest work.

The 1980s saw him combine his rock career with appearances in films including Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and Absolute Beginners.

The rise of the New Romantic scene in the UK betrayed an obvious Bowie influence and he continued to record and tour filling massive US stadiums and selling albums by the million.

1988 brought a new venture - and what many fans thought was a new low - when he returned as one quarter of rock band Tin Machine.

Their initial success soon faded and by 1993 Bowie was back on his own with the solo album Black Tie White Noise.

He had married supermodel Iman a year earlier and settled in New York but continued to tour and record until 2003 when he released Reality.

It was his 23rd - and many assumed last - studio album and was followed by some low-key live appearances, an acting role in the 2006 film The Prestige, but no new music until last year when he returned with the widely acclaimed The Next Day.

The album won praise and earned him a place on the Mercury Prize shortlist, although he missed out to James Blake.

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